Sunday, July 4, 2010

RE: Subdivisions: Religious life and Religion

Posting to Autocat

Concerning the question:
We are supposed to use Religious life under classes of people.
Religion under ethnic groups.

Don't these categories of classes people and ethnic groups begin to blend
into each other?


On Sun, 4 Jul 2010 00:17:09 -0400, Hal Cain wrote:

>Is this a justifiable distinction? I grant a theoretical distinction can be made, between "religion" (centred on beliefs, I assume) and "religious life" (centred on practices) but that's not the basis in practice; moreover either term could be applied under the names of persons, where "Religion" has to be used.
>
>If I propose to the LCSH editors that a single term be adopted to replace these variants, what should it be?

I completely agree. If *we* can't understand the difference, and we have access to the SCMs--at least theoretically sometimes, and sometimes we can't be bothered to look it up--and even when we look it up, it still isn't clear for us, then how in the world can a user, who has no access to any of our tools, be expected to use it at all intelligently?

I think this shows that many of the cataloging tools, e.g. the SCMs should be put online in some sort of way for use by our patrons, because there is not nearly enough help in the authority files for them, especially when the help that may be there comes up only by *browsing* subject headings and not when they do keyword, which is the way the overwhelming number of people
search the catalog. There is so much more help that we could provide our users, if we just mentally put ourselves into their places, and try to imagine the real problems we would experience. If we were to do this, our users may actually begin to find the library catalog less threatening, more useful, and then begin to appreciate what we do more and more. (But then again, I'm an idealist!)

As far as deciding which term should be used: religion or religious life, my suggestion is to just flip a coin. As so often, both are equally good or bad, and this is why there is such a need for cross-references. In traditional (i.e. card) catalogs, making cross-references was feasible only for main headings and not for subdivisions. What I mean is that if somebody wanted to make a cross-reference for a main heading "Religion" you would only have to do it in one place, but to make a similar reference, to let searchers know that for a subdivision "Religious life" under all "Ethnic groups", that they must really use "Religion", the cataloger would have to make a cross-reference under each ethnic group.

Using new tools, this shouldn't be a problem anymore, if the full power of today's systems were utilized. Yes, it would be work, but it would save a lot of work when implemented. In any case, subject subdivisions--which are very powerful if used correctly--must be completely rethought for use in today's information climate, from the standpoints both of how to assign them, and how patrons can use them.

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